Boris Johnson – Arlene Foster’s call for protocol to be replace symptomatic of DUP’s ‘totally inconsistent approach’ says Lord Empey
FORMER Ulster Unionist leader Lord Reg Empey has accused the DUP of “talking out of both sides of its mouth” after Arlene Foster complained about apparent restrictions on the movement of military equipment across the Irish Sea.
The former UUP leader said the Mrs Foster and her colleagues were “responsible for the protocol” because they acquiesced to the proposals tabled by Boris Johnson and the EU in October 2019.
When the protocol came into force at the beginning of this month, the DUP leader sought to stress its “opportunities” and spoke of mitigating any difficulties that arose.
It echoed sentiments she voiced as far back as September last year when Mrs Foster said she recognised that the protocol was now “law” and while she would continue to oppose it, recognised that that checks on goods from Britain “is the reality now”.
However, the DUP leader has appeared increasingly isolated in her party with few of her colleagues publicly backing her moderate stance.
Her latest comments indicate increased opposition to the protocol – though she has yet to follow other unionists in calling for Article 16 to be invoked.
As it was claimed yesterday that Brexit red tape could hinder the movement of military equipment from Britain, Mrs Foster said the restriction was among “hundreds of problems” created by the protocol and she called for it to be replaced.
“It’s not acceptable that military movements within the United Kingdom should be affected in the way that has been reported,” she said.
“It’s just an example of the hundreds of issues that have been raised and we’ll continue to work through those issues and be focused on each of them.”
The first minister said a “replacement” to the protocol was required, describing what was currently in place as “unworkable”.
The Ministry of Defence has said the Irish Sea border had “not placed any limitations” on its ability to conduct operations.
Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie had earlier described the situation as “ludicrous”.
“This should not merely be a Northern Ireland issue but it should be of serious concern for every MP at Westminster, no matter what party they represent,” he said.
Lord Empey said in addition to Mrs Foster previously talking about the opportunities stemming from the protocol, her executive colleague Diane Dodds’s Department for the Economy was “promoting the advantages of it to the world”.
“It’s all part of Arlene Foster’s haphazard leadership which has veered from one disaster to another,” he told The Irish News.
“How can you send out a salesperson to market this place and the advantages of the protocol while the party of the minister responsible for that is campaigning to bring it to an end? It just doesn’t make sense.”
The former UUP leader said the DUP had a “totally inconsistent approach” and that policy was being devised “on the hoof”.
“They are talking out of both sides of their mouth and it’s all due to the fact that they made a huge blunder by buying into Boris Johnson’s argument – now they’re trying to retrofit their own arguments,” he said.